The second member of the Chicago Bears' 1985 championship team has passed away. Dave Duerson was found dead in his home in Dade County, Fla. on Thursday night. The cause of death was undisclosed. He was 50 years old.
Like Walter Payton before him, Double D passed on far too early, and news of his death has sent a wave of grief throughout the Bears community.
Duerson was a two-time All-American defensive back at Notre Dame and was drafted in the third round of the famed Chicago draft class of 1983 -- which also included Richard Dent, Willie Gault, Mike Richardson, Jim Covert, Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer. Double D spent his first two years backing up strong safety Todd Bell and was inserted in the starting lineup in 1985 when Bell held out due to a contract dispute.
Duerson played and integral role in Buddy Ryan's 46 defense. He intercepted two passes during the Super Bowl season and was outstanding in run support. His effort in 1985 earned him the first of his four straight trips to the Pro Bowl. His seven sacks the following season set the then-record for sacks by an NFL defensive back. He went on to win his second Super Bowl ring as a member of the 1990 New York Giants. In his 11 NFL seasons, seven with the Bears, he intercepted 20 passes and had 16 sacks.
His post-football career included time as an NFL labor activist, as well as many successful business ventures, including running a Kenosha-based sausage company. He also hosted the radio program "Double Time with Double D."
In addition, his charitable contributions were numerous. He founded two substance abuse programs; promoted Special Olympics; offered free football camps in Chicago and Muncie that taught football fundamentals while promoting the importance of education and teaching kids about substance abuse prevention; served as chairman of the board for the Dave Duerson Foundation, an organization that provides support for students pursuing entrepreneurial studies; was a member of Notre Dame's athletic mentoring program; and served as a national trustee for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He was the NFL's Man of the Year in 1987, the NFL's Humanitarian of the Year in 1988 and Notre Dame's Monogram Club Member of the Year in 1990.
Yet recently his life had spiraled downhill. First his offshoot food business failed and his home in Highland Park was foreclosed. Then in 2006, he pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge against his wife. Notre Dame distanced itself from Duerson, who was forced to move away from the area he loved and take up residence in Miami.
Double D, like Payton, was a class act whose time came far too soon. It's an inevitable that eventually every member of that 1985 Bears team will move on, but for it to happen so early, to two of the great men in Chicago history, is truly tragic.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.